updated 1/24/2008 1:56:08 PM ET 2008-01-24T18:56:08

A deputy coroner has been accused of stealing gift cards from the body of a woman who had committed suicide.

Richmond County Deputy Coroner Charlena Graham was charged Wednesday with a felony count of theft by taking.

Graham, 43, has also been fired from the coroner's office, where she worked for about four years, officials said.

"I was aware of the investigation," Coroner Grover Tuten said. "I knew it was going on, and I cooperated with it and we cleaned our house."

Authorities went into a motel room on Dec. 31 after getting reports of gunshots, a sheriff's report said. In the room, deputies found a 29-year-old woman dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. A handgun was in the woman's hand and a handwritten note lay nearby, the report says.

Family reports cards missing
Personal items from the woman were turned over to Graham, including five gift cards for Macy's, Target, Victoria's Secret and a local steak house, according to Sheriff Ronnie Strength. Authorities later learned from the woman's family that some gift cards might have been missing, he said. The total value of the gift cards was about $400.

Investigators recovered videotapes of Graham using the gift cards at local stores, the sheriff said.

It was not clear Thursday whether Graham is represented by an attorney. The Augusta district attorney's office did not immediately return a call asking for comment.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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